Tag Archives: Friedrich Nietzsche

Etymology of vagabondage

27 Feb

The Leatherman (ca. 1839–1889) was a vagabond famous for his handmade leather suit of clothes, who traveled a circuit between the Connecticut River and the Hudson River, roughly from 1856 to 1889.

Taken to task by a reader over the complicated etymology of vagabondage, I realise the need for another post on the subject.

In an earlier post I referred to the cirujas of Buenos Aires, otherwise known as cartoneros, those nocturnal seekers-out of trash bins, whose primary task is to find materials for recycling (plastic, cardboard, paper etc). Cartoneros are a sub-category of ciruja, a professional scavenger of all types of object for which a use or purpose can be made. That is why I likened the ciruja to a kind of street alchemist, seeking out base metal to transmute into gold. But I can see, as I was chided, that there is nothing especially poetic about this.

Whereas with the linyeras, there is. The definition of linyera given in my dictionary of  lunfardo (Buenos Aires slang) is: “Persona vagbunda, abandonada y ociosa (idle), que vive de variados recursos (living off a variety of resources).” The word originally comes from the Piedmontese linger, which meant “a posse of tramps”. These fit the more romanticized notion of the classical vagabond, moving around the country (or the globe) without direction or purpose, usually associated in North America with the hobo, whose preferred means of travel was jumping trains, an occupation which was until not so long ago manageable in Europe also, but which has now become as obsolete as hitchhiking.

One still sees a posse of tramps drinking from bottles or flagons in any French town or city. These, of course, are clochards. A clochard or clocharde is a person “without fixed domicile, living from public charity and handouts.” The term clochard allegedly means ‘one who limps’ from the Late Latin cloppus (lame), but I have also heard that the term comes from the ringing of a bell (cloche) which in earlier times – when most cities in France were fortified – signalled that it was time for the indigent and poor, who could not afford lodging in town, to leave the city and go sleep in a field or a barn. To my mind, a clochard is somewhat different from a vagabond. A clochard might not venture from a known neighbourhood, while for a vagabond, the world is his lobster (sic).

According to French Wikipedia “Des vagabonds célèbres ont existé, par exemple GandhiNietzscheLanza Del Vasto, et d’innombrables philosophes-vagabonds.”

To be continued. Any contributions welcome.







Eternal Return

10 Jun


What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: ‘This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more’ … Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: ‘You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine.’          

Nietzsche, The Gay Science.


What is it about Nietzsche and his infatuation with eternal return, an infatuation I seem to have acquired also?

I began this blog last July, having written myself into a hole with the novel I was working on. Writing the blog occupied the space I had dedicated to the writing of the novel, but with very different results. Thus it was that Blanco’s blog began as a displacement behaviour and quickly developed into a daily ritual. During the first few months I kept up a good pace, posting most days, and then in the new year the number of posts began to decline, although, reassuringly, the number of visitors did not drop in any substantial way.

Now almost a year has passed and I need to return to the novel that I abandoned when I started blogging. It is a case of the eternal return. Not a simple case (these things are never that simple), but definitely we have been here before. I need to pick up my tools and begin again the task I left off, as in a fairy tale.

Not that I intend breaking off from the blog altogether: no, I will continue to post, but perhaps at a less frenetic pace than when I first started out.



The blog goes on, and like everything else in nature, returns again and again to its starting place. Like Ariadne leaving her thread in the Cretan adventure, I follow the trail to the exit, finding only a sign that says ‘EXIT TO THE LABYRINTH’ (which is also the entrance to the labyrinth). The novel, the blog, the story, the labyrinth: it is all the same thing, and we keep returning here. If you wish to keep reading Blanco’s blog, you will find that this is all true.